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Timo Elliott of SAP on Analytics and SAP Leonardo

November 10, 2017

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider. I am pleased to be joined on this podcast today by Timo Elliott of SAP. Timo, thank you for joining me today.

Timo Elliott, SAP: Thank you for asking me.

Ken: Timo, you’re here today to talk to us a little bit about SAP Leonardo and analytics. Can you first introduce yourself to our listeners?

Timo: Sure, so my name’s Timo Elliott. I am an Innovation Evangelist for SAP. And I’ve been working with SAP Analytics customers for a little over 26 years now. I was one of the early employees at a small French start-up called BusinessObjects that was acquired by SAP in 2007 and I’m talking to you today from my home city of beautiful Paris, France, where it’s a sunny Friday afternoon.

Ken: Great. Innovation Evangelist, I like the sound of that and 26 years of experience, so certainly we have the right expert here on the phone with us. Timo, to start, SAP says that SAP Leonardo is less a product, than a digital innovation system. I was hoping you could touch on where analytics fits into that system, and in what capacity?

Timo: Sure. So first I’ve heard SAP Leonardo being explained so many different ways so let me take a quick step back and just explain why it exists in the first place.

People have always known that they could go to SAP for support for their mission-critical operations with platforms such as S/4HANA and cloud applications. But in the last few years we’ve been moving from a process-driven world to a data-driven world and we’ve been working more with companies really working on digital transformation and things like new business models. And as we’ve worked with those customers we learned a lot and actually realized that we could do more to support their customer experience. It’s not that it’s so much about innovation per se, it’s about new ways of innovating. So that’s why we introduced SAP Leonardo and the most important thing to understand is that it’s not a "product" or a "platform", above all, it’s a big strategic change in how we work with our customers. 

So we call it a "digital innovation system" to help customers innovate at scale and confidently redefine their business. And that word “system” isn’t like "operating system", it’s a system for us to work with our customers not just to provide them with technology, but actually to help them succeed with digital transformation. 

And so SAP Leonardo combines technology but also some innovation services to help with the creativity and the human aspects of actually implementing that technology successfully.

So how does analytics fit in? Well, analytics was already one big step closer to these more flexible, digital processes. Analytics is inherently something that is updated more frequently and depending on the audience in way that traditional ERP processes don’t. So almost every aspect of analytics of SAP Leonardo touches on analytics in some way.

Ken: OK, then how does SAP Leonardo complement the existing SAP analytics portfolio and maybe address what differentiates it from existing solutions that are already out there that help organizations evolve digital strategies?

Timo: SAP Leonardo does have technologies in it --- these are the technology ingredients, if you like, that you can use as part of an overall recipe for digital transformation. And of those technologies, most of them touch analytics in one way or another. 

So for example it includes the Internet of Things (IoT) platforms that’s all about using sensors to view previously hidden processes so that you can optimize them with analytics. 

There’s our big data platform to help you gather and analyze information at scale. That’s not just about SAP HANA, it’s also technologies like Hadoop and Spark with SAP Vora. 

There’s machine learning platform and applications to help automate knowledge work and do things that were previously impossible. We have a new platform called the SAP Data Network that is about what Gartner calls "Infonomics" -- data monetization. So, helping organizations take their existing data assets and anonymize them and aggregate all of that data and sell it in new ways to new customers. 

And then there’s blockchain as a service -- not directly linked to analytics but potentially could help in situations where you’re trying to share information in a very secure way without a central authority. 

And then a final block is called Analytics, and SAP Leonardo includes SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Digital Boardroom.

So those are the technologies that are part of SAP Leonardo. It absolutely does not mean that any of the traditional analytics for example the BusinessObjects Web Intelligence platform – those still are completely sticking around. We’re looking to lead the cloud in digital innovation with these new technologies but continuing to innovate the core of our analytics as we had done for the last 20 years.

Ken: And with all of those products and solutions out there, do you still see any misconceptions from customers about how important analytics are in a digital economy. What do you tell customers who think that incorporating a more robust analytics framework is too complex or perhaps requires too many resources?

Timo: This is an area I’m particularly interested in and passionate about. I’ve worked obviously in analytics for a long time, and there’s been a big change in the importance of analytics. I believe it’s at least four times more important than it’s ever been. 

Why? Well, because first obviously the core of analytics has always been about providing information to decision makers. That’s more important than ever – the future belongs to companies that can innovate in an agile way and change fast when faced with changing circumstances. We live in a fast-moving market. The ability to get the right insights for the right people and be able to act on those insights and learn new behaviors quickly is what’s increasingly separating the survivors from the people that go extinct. So that decision loop – learning faster than the competition – is incredibly important and obviously analytics is at the core of that. That’s the No. 1 reason. 

The No. 2 reason is that we’re used to the idea that we have processes that create data for analytics. But increasingly data is being used to create new digital processes. And these processes are where the different steps change consistently over time based on information. So things like the customer journey – it used to be a very linear process; I see an ad and I go to the store and buy something. But now companies are investing in sort of the end-to-end customer journey using real-time analytics at every touchpoint to steer customers to the best outcomes. The result is that each customer is potentially following a unique personalized process for that individual and that process changes over time automatically as the data changes. So it’s much more agile and flexible. And these new types of processes are really taking over every aspect of modern business. And again it’s analytics that are powering those new processes. 

The third big reason is that analytics is increasingly part of products and services, so it’s actually part of the product experience. It’s about differentiating products from other people -- whether it’s a good estimation of how long your Uber is going to take to arrive or the quality of a book recommendation from Amazon, data is directly being shared with customers to help improve their enjoyment of products. 

The last area as we’ve already mentioned is direct data monetization; turning information into income in new ways. 

So those four reasons are all reasons why analytics should be taken more seriously than it has been until now, and also should invest more – it’s no longer just the basis for better decisions. That is always going to be important – but now really it’s the foundation for the business models of the future. 

All of the hard work that we’ve been doing for the last few decades to get information in a consistent, conformed way so that business people can make better decisions. That is converting directly into business benefits in the new digital economy.

Ken: And Timo, what are some of the future directions for analytics and how it relates to SAP Leonardo?

Timo: I guess some of the big areas that we’re working with customers on is things like first moving to cloud analytics. Now obviously as more business applications move to the cloud it makes perfect sense for cloud analytics to be right alongside. But in addition to that, it’s simply makes much more sense to do analytics in the cloud in the future. It’s a more powerful platform that allows you more flexibility and agility and it lets you scale quickly when you want to use new sets of data. 

With the SAP Cloud Platform you can integrate traditional analytics with incredibly powerful predictive analytics and machine learning and business planning to be able to act on that information all in a single, seamless platform. 

So we’re continuing to invest in our on-premise products, but in the future we see more and more businesses moving to the cloud as those business benefits become more obvious. Now we know that many organizations are reluctant to move to cloud analytics, but all of the analysts basically agree that the barriers to doing so are increasingly cultural rather than security or legal concerns. And we’d be delighted to talk to any company what they feel their barriers are. 

We can already offer cloud analytics even without your data leaving the premises; so you access the functionality from the cloud but your data stays inside your firewall. So we are really trying to get rid of every barrier that people can come up with for not moving to a cloud environment.

Obviously big data is another area that is moving fast – if you haven’t invested in a big data platform now is the time to do so. It’s not about replacing existing data warehouses and so on, it’s about augmenting them with more signal data, so financial data for example will only tell you about problems when it’s already too late and you’ve already missed the sale. But if you’re looking at sensor data, or social media data you have an opportunity to detect and fix problems much earlier in the cycle potentially even before they have any impact on your customer experience or your bottom line. 

The next big area is machine learning which is absolutely going to transform every single business process and function including analytics. Gartner is talking about something called smart data discovery, which is machine learning embedded directly to improve the provision of analytics. So for example one of the biggest problems in analytics is bringing data together and having it make sense. You use machine learning to detect how data fits together and corrects problems more intelligently and more automatically, or you can use machine learning to automatically get insights from data and you can use it to suggest more proactively what end users should be looking at: "People like you who have been looking at these reports also found these reports interesting". Again, as part of SAP Cloud Platform we’re integrating those kinds of functionality today.

And other areas where I think there’s an opportunity; analytics I think is really one of the core business processes of organizations today and you need to start thinking of it as a business process and using some of the Leonardo technologies and techniques of using things like Design Thinking to improve the end-to-end analytics journey, rather than just relying on information. Information is useless, nothing happens unless you change something in the business. 

So for example, are we spending enough time today helping our business users find the right questions, are we helping them collaborate to help them find the best answers? Do we have the right systems and incentives in place to actually make sure that our company culture evolves around data-based decisions? Are we thinking about analytics as a process that we can learn from and optimize over time? Those are all things that we address within the SAP Leonardo framework and I think fit perfectly with the direction analytics needs to go.

Ken: Lastly Timo, where can listeners go to learn more about how to remove some of those barriers you mentioned? Secondly, where can listeners go for information in general on SAP Leonardo and the role of analytics?

Timo: So there are some great resources for any organization wanting to think about BI in a more strategic way and analytics going forward. So first we have upgraded our BI strategy information, just type in SAP BI Strategy into your favorite web browser and you’ll come across those documents. That’s a great set of tools and checklists to help you evaluate your BI strategy. 

Second, a lot of this is about imagination and creativity and doing things in new ways. And the best way to proceed with that is by talking to other people. I’m a huge believer in the power of community. So if you don’t already do so, please take part in the overall analytics community whether it’s using the SAP Community Network or your local SAP user group and analytics special interest groups. Also of course resources like conferences, SAPinsider’s BI-HANA event – these are great occasions for you to meet and talk to other people, share your problems and hear the solutions or hear from what other people what they’ve done wrong that you can avoid. I guarantee that if you start going to these events and start talking to other people you will absolutely be at least one step further ahead in your journey to this digital transformation future using analytics.

Ken: Timo, thank you very much for being with us today.

Timo: Thank you!

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